January 11, 2016

Co-Creator Cup Recipient Appreciates Strong Community

Kara Kahnke (right) poses with Annie Eldon (left).

Kara Kahnke (right) poses with Annie Eldon (left).

By Kara Kahnke

Annie Eldon first came to City Square after meeting former Pastor Rob Rynders at a community event. Rob invited Annie to a City Square Theology Pub where community members of different faith backgrounds hold an informal monthly discussion about different faith topics Although Annie didn’t continue to go to Theology Pub, she did stay in touch with Rob, and attended City Square’s interfaith series and controversial issues series that were held a couple of years ago. Ultimately, she made the decision to make City Square her home church when another church she was attending got bigger than she preferred and lost its strong small community feeling.

“Every church service was around 200 people and I felt like I didn’t know anyone anymore,” she said. “I love that City Square is so community focused. That’s what I look for when attending a church.”

Annie grew up Christian, but chose to stop attending church at 17 because she felt her church was too focused in talking about the Iraq war, which made her uncomfortable because she didn’t support the war. However, when she began to have some health problems a few years later, she felt it was a call to return to church. She tends to seek out newly forming churches because of their commitment to strong communities.

City Square recognized Annie for her own community involvement. She received the Co-creators Cup, which is a special award the church offers to congregation members who make an extra effort to bring people closer to each other and to God. Recipients of the Co-creators Cup eventually pass it along to the person they believe is most deserving. Annie participates in a bicycle advocacy group that promotes bicycle awareness, infrastructure and education. She has also helped with various events in the Coronado neighborhood such as the recent Porch Concert Tour, at which several neighbors hosted bands in their homes. Within the church, Annie helps out when needed, and participates in the Beer Brewing and Spiritual Formation small groups.

Annie said the Spiritual Formation group is particularly meaningful to her. “When we come to church, we hear Pastor Brian speak, but we might not always have an opportunity to discuss what was said. During small group we have a chance to watch a video or read something, and then discuss it in more detail.”

Annie encouraged others who are thinking about attending City Square to give it a try, noting that opportunities like the Beer Brewing group and monthly happy hour allow people to participate in the church community without having to attend a service. “We are a very open and welcoming community that accepts people of different faiths, sexualities and backgrounds. If they are uncomfortable that’s OK, but at least they can give it a shot.”

December 14, 2015

Community Focus Makes City Square Special

Kara Kahnke (left) poses with Scott Jeffries (right).

Kara Kahnke (left) poses with Scott Jeffries (right).

By: Kara Kahnke

Scott Jeffries came to City Square at the invitation of his sister and brother-in-law. Scott grew up Methodist, but said previous church experiences made him apprehensive. “I would get very nervous about what people were thinking about me or how they were looking at me. I didn’t want to experience that anymore.”

After about a year of declining to come to City Square, Scott finally decided to give it a try. What he found surprised him. His nervousness disappeared in such an accepting congregation. “We are all different, yet we are able to come together,” he said.

Scott praised City Square’s strong community focus. City Square tithes 10 percent of its income to a different local charity each quarter, and makes an effort to remind church goers to be active in giving back. City Square currently has a “deep listening” committee evaluating how the church can be more effective in the Coronado neighborhood that surrounds it. Committee members survey people and businesses in the neighborhood to find out what’s important to them and to make new connections. The committee hopes that this project will help City Square understand every part of the Coronado community. “I really do believe that this message of community focus is the truth,” Scott said.

Although he didn’t always have the most positive experience with church growing up, Scott did enjoy going to United Methodist Outreach Ministry with his mother to feed the homeless. “That was probably the first time I had a faith connection with my mom, the church, and the community,” he said. He believes the connection he felt between church and community is part of what makes City Square so meaningful to him.

Scott said someone coming to City Square for the first time would find it different from traditional churches because traditions and rituals are less emphasized. Although he finds a certain amount of comfort in predictability, at City Square, his comfort comes from the congregation and the knowledge that the church is having a true impact. “It’s truly a congregation and community-focused church and movement,” he said.

November 9, 2015

City Square Emphasizes Acceptance and Exploration

Kara Kahnke (center) poses with Jon Rodis (left) and Sam Rodis (right).

Kara Kahnke (center) poses with Jon Rodis (left) and Sam Rodis (right).

By Kara Kahnke

Jon and Sam Rodis came to City Square because Pastor Brian was looking for musicians to play in the band. Although he wasn’t necessarily looking for a church, Jon said he’s found a place where he can be himself. He is able to play and write the spiritual music he loves, which he said he never thought he’d be playing in a church.

Sam agreed that City Square has helped her feel accepted in a religious community for the first time. She said her family never attended church when she was growing up. “The few times I attended church with friends, I felt like I didn’t belong and everyone knew it.” But City Square has been completely different for her. “I’ve never encountered this many people in one place who really care about each other. It inspires me to be the best version of myself and to be a more genuine and caring person,” she added.

In addition to the strong community, Jon noted that City Square has helped him grow theologically as well. He said growing up his hesitation about God and spirituality stemmed from his observation that some religious communities are more hierarchically based and seem to select an elect few who are qualified to understand God and matters of the universe. “Through reflecting on songs, prayer, and scripture, I’ve come to understand that there doesn’t have to be any pretense of me understanding the entirety of what God or the universe means.”

In terms of how City Square might be different from other churches, Jon believes that practice is emphasized over belief and spirituality is emphasized over religion. “We ask our people to think about how they might lead a spiritually healthy life rather than counting on a certain belief system to carry them through,” he said.

Sam said this emphasis on exploration is one of the things she loves most about City Square. “I haven’t found another spiritual community that is open to so many different ways of exploring faith. For someone like me, who is relatively new to a faith community, it’s refreshing to be around people who are strong in their beliefs as well as people who are just beginning their faith journey.”

Jon added that while City Square has a strong community, he believes that the church emphasizes individual strengths rather than focusing on the community as a whole. Sam agreed. “When everyone is the best version of themselves they are able to give the best to our church community and our neighborhood community.”

To those thinking about attending City Square for the first time Sam said, “If you know who you are come and be yourself here. If you don’t know who you are, come and explore it with us.”

October 12, 2015

Accepting and Progressive Community on the Verge of Wonderful Things

By: Kara Kahnke

Kara Kahnke (left) poses with Tiffany Flaming (right).

Kara Kahnke (left) poses with Tiffany Flaming (right).

Tiffany Flaming found City Square online when searching for a church after moving from the Bay area. She said she was looking for a church that was both accepting of the LGBTQ community and supportive of women in leadership. While City Square meets both of these requirements, she said there are so many other reasons she loves it.

Tiffany likes that it’s an informal organization that isn’t controlled by the wishes of one person. People are free to pursue their own interests through various activities and small groups with the church’s blessing. She said she enjoys that City Square doesn’t choose to isolate itself in general. She was looking for a church that didn’t spend all of its time focused on its own people. “Finding a church like City Square that has an outreach focus and gives money and time to community organizations was really important to me.”

Tiffany comes from a varied faith background. She has been part of the Presbyterian tradition most of her adult life, but was raised practicing Mennonite and Baptist traditions, and attended Baptist seminary. Tiffany noted that she chooses to attend a church based on the individual church itself rather than any given belief system it represents. She knows she’ll never agree with every tenet of a particular denomination. She said she has alternated between belief systems that focus on original sin and those that focus on original blessing, noting that her own belief system is somewhere in the middle. She knows that City Square will accept her no matter what she believes.

“City Square is a safe place to explore your faith without a hard sell,” Tiffany said. “Anyone who attends here is going to find a place where a relationship with God is encouraged, but we’re not going to tell them how to do it. We are also going to tell everyone that they are valued and loved. Everyone can be themselves here.”

To her, City Square represents the small, engaged young, friendly and progressive community she had hoped to find when she moved here.

Because City Square recently celebrated its two-year anniversary, Tiffany noted that it’s exciting to be on the ground floor of something. “There are so many people here who pursue their own passions and service to the community in so many interesting ways. We are on the verge of so many wonderful things.”

September 14, 2015

Welcoming Young Community Draws Couple to City Square

By: Kara Kahnke

Dennis Skinner (left) and Janine Skinner (right) pose with Kara Kahnke. (center)

Dennis Skinner (left) and Janine Skinner (right) pose with Kara Kahnke. (center)

Dennis and Janine Skinner came to City Square at the suggestion of a friend. Because they have a transgender son and lesbian daughter, they were looking for a place that embraced diversity, particularly the LGBT community. They came to City Square for one of the first services. “We looked around the room and there was a diverse range of ages and ethnicities. There were lesbian couples holding hands. So, the diversity made us feel completely at home,” Janine said.

City Square tithes a portion of its weekly offering to a different charity each quarter. Dennis noted that he was impressed that the money from that quarter was being contributed to One-n-ten, an organization that helps LGBT youth. He remembered being happy to see One-n-ten’s logo proudly displayed at City Square.

Dennis described City Square as a great paradox. He said that it’s a place that’s in line with his belief system and challenges him to think about things differently. “I love that City Square is willing to take on topics that other churches might consider too controversial or political.” For example, Pastor Brian recently discussed immigration in a sermon series.

In addition to learning and growing from City Square, Janine said the City Square congregation has become like family to her and played a part in their decision to move to downtown Phoenix. As a couple in their 50s, Dennis and Janine said they love being embraced by a young church community because having friends their kids’ age gives them a fresh perspective and allows them to stay young.

Dennis said he wants people to know that, “City Square is a really cool place. It doesn’t matter if you know what you believe or which labels apply to you. You are going to feel welcome.” Janine said she loves that there are other opportunities for people to be involved in City Square even if they don’t want to come to church. They have invited friends of theirs to participate in other City Square social events such as theology pub and happy hour. “City Square is a unique place, and I’d encourage people to give it a shot,” Janine said.

August 10, 2015

City Square feels like home

By: Kara Kahnke

Kent Simer (left) poses with Kara Kahnke. (right)

Kent Simer (left) poses with Kara Kahnke. (right)

“It’s become a home for me,” Kent Simer said when talking about his experience at City Square. He remembered seeing the City Square signs on his way home from work in downtown Phoenix and one day finally going in. He attended one of the first services, and felt welcome right away. He described it not only as a place he enjoys, but one he needs. “My life just keeps getting richer and richer with all of the people I’ve met here,” he said.

Kent grew up Presbyterian, and much like his experience at City Square, was one of the first members of his home church. He attended youth bible studies and was involved as a participant, counselor, and director at a Presbyterian Church camp. He continues to participate on the Board of Directors of that camp.

Although these experiences helped inform his faith, members of his family also attended church within the Methodist tradition. He sometimes attended church with his grandfather, and noted that the Presbyterian and Methodist traditions don’t feel that different to him. He said that City Square felt like a better fit for him because it felt more welcoming to him as someone who is single without kids.

In addition to the welcoming atmosphere, Kent said he enjoys that City Square is always willing to ask questions. “It’s not afraid to try new things and to experiment with how and where we worship,” he said. He participates in the Spiritual Formation group, and said that has helped cement his place in the church and build strong connections with people while allowing him to more deeply explore his faith. He is also on the church’s Leadership Committee.

Kent said others attending City Square for the first time should know that, “You can come as you are wherever you are in your spiritual journey. It’s just a friendly place to be.”

July 13, 2015

City Square embraces warmth and openness

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Josh Woodward (right) poses with Kara Kahnke. (left)

By: Kara Kahnke

Josh Woodward learned about City Square through Pastor Brian. They originally met in 2010 when Brian was doing his externship at Crossroads United Methodist Church. Josh remembered being impressed by Brian’s openness and honesty, and his ability to connect with the congregation. When talking with Brian a few years later, Josh was excited to learn that he was starting a new church.

Josh said Brian’s value of openness has continued at City Square. “It’s a very warm and loving place. At its core it supports the golden rule of treating others as you want to be treated. You feel embraced by a community that truly wants what’s best for you,” Josh said. He noted that this embracing warmth is part of what makes City Square so special.

Josh’s parents didn’t grow up Methodist, but his family eventually found a Methodist church that they enjoyed. He was officially confirmed in 1993. He said a connection to his faith has always been important to him. “At the times when I went away from the church, I felt a call to come back. When I wasn’t involved with the church, I felt that absence.”

In addition to attending church services, Josh recently led the Painting small group. He believes that part of being a good Christian means giving back your time and talent to help others. After doing some soul searching, he realized that he wanted to use his talent for art to enrich the City Square Community. He has always enjoyed drawing and painting, and wanted others to have the same rewarding experience.

Although this was his first time running the Painting group, he said it was an enjoyable experience. “At the end of the day it’s about being together, having fun and enjoying yourselves. Hopefully, it inspired people to try something new.”

The Painting group is currently on hiatus. Josh may bring it back in the future, but he is now participating in the Writing group. He said he’s excited to begin in this new group because it’s yet another way that he can build his fellowship with others in the City Square community.

Josh said that people looking for a church community should know that they don’t need to be of a particular faith background to attend City Square. “We take the approach of asking why. We ask ‘what can we do to make our community a little bit better?’”

June 23, 2015

Food Packing for FMSC

fmsc

Join City Square as we help Feed My Starving Children pack 1 Million Meals for starving children around the world. Please register before to reserve your spot.

Sunday, July 26th from 2p-4p
Phoenix Convention Center – South Building, West Door
Ages 5 & up, seated positions are available

Questions? Contact Janine Skinner at jskinner@fmsc.org

June 16, 2015

Community Dinners for 6 or 8

Just a few more days to sign up for this round of Dinners for 6 or 8. When you click on this link fill in a line on the spreadsheet with your information just like if you were at a conference and wanted to sign up at a booth.

We have good response so far. Please sign-up and join in the fun, there is no requirement to host a dinner (that’s just an option on the sheet). Contact Justin directly with any questions!

June 15, 2015

City Square fosters openness and creativity

11241292_10152895745022405_162548937_oAlthough she considers herself mainly part of the Methodist tradition, Jessica Johnson grew up in a federated church that welcomed several different faith traditions to worship together. “It ran the gamut between people who were pretty conservative and very liberal. It was important to me to find a place that had a wide range of people where I could ask questions,” she said.

Jessica said she has found a similar openness at City Square. In addition to openness regarding faith traditions, she noted that she appreciates the church’s willingness to embrace various forms of creativity. Jessica came to City Square after her pervious church began to decline. She enjoyed the creative music at church, but soon learned that the creative outlets didn’t stop there. “There is space for people to connect with each other and to pursue their own ways of doing that, such as the Painting group or the Beer Brewing group,” she said. Jessica is currently part of the Spiritual Formation group, which meets weekly to discuss various aspects of faith.

Jessica pointed out that new attendees of City Square should know that this is a new, energized, and diverse community where people are excited to come together to learn about their faith. She said the community’s energy is part of what makes it so special. She also appreciates that City Square offers her the opportunity to participate in communion each week. “It’s a powerful statement of faith that everyone is fed and everyone is welcome at the table.”